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IAA talks to Glen Burrows, VP and GM, APJ OEM & IoT Solutions, Dell EMC about IoT in Asia Pacific and what the company has in store for 2018.

Getting started with IoT requires an approach that is grounded in experience and pragmatism because it is not easy to capture, analyse and leverage the data in an optimised way that drives business growth, said Mr Burrows.

IAA: What challenges have you faced in doing business in the APJ region and could you provide an update on the current state of the market?

Glen Burrows (GB): The APJ business has been growing at robust double digits since a standing start eight years ago. We have reached US$1bn in revenue based on the trailing four quarters ending Q3 FY18. As our global leader for the OEM & IoT Solutions business shared recently that we have achieved US$3bn in global sales, our regional milestone is an indication that APJ is a significant part of the global business. We are proud with the achievement, and we are conscious that the wave of transformation happening in APJ presents us with new opportunities to extend this growth. The advancements of low cost, high performance processors, wireless connectivity, big data analytics and low cost digital storage has been fuelling the adoption of IoT.

There are different drivers for digital transformation happening in APJ and this makes the region intensely diverse – each market and industry sector has a wide set of challenges and a different set of goals.

For example, tech trends seen in mainstream enterprise IT a decade ago are now being adopted by Japan’s leading process control and industrial automation companies. In contrast, China is strong on a few fronts: driving innovation in healthcare, smart manufacturing, and video security and surveillance.

In terms of ruggedised embedded computing solutions, these solutions lend themselves well to the mining industry which is strong in Australia, China, and Indonesia. Elsewhere, smart city initiatives in India, Singapore, and Thailand are driving growth opportunities including building management in markets like Australia & New Zealand.

The OEM & IoT Solutions business is able to serve three types of customer requirements. Firstly, we are able to serve local firms soliciting our services to meet local requirements. As we have capabilities to engineer these solutions in Asia, test them in Asia, and manufacture them in Asia, we are as much a local manufacturer as any other player in the market. Secondly, we also work with global customers who need to customise their solutions to meet the requirements of their local consumers. Lastly, we also have local customers who want to take advantage of our large global footprint and their IP worldwide. This is something we helped Innodep, a security & surveillance firm out of South Korea, when we worked with them to enable their IP-based security solution, Vurix IP-Matrix, with IoT technology. Beyond the deep expertise we can deliver, the fact that they can have a global supply chain overnight gives special nuance to the value we bring. We are the only firm that can deliver to all three types of requirements, as each come with its own set of complexities.

IAA: What are your goals for 2018, and could you provide some insight on your strategy in achieving your goals?

GB: 2018 will be exciting as we edge closer to the next era of human-machine partnerships. We will increasingly embrace AI, and see the blurring of ‘real’ reality and augmented reality coupled with the emergence of the mega cloud. IoT is now at a critical inflection point – where companies can drive real economic value, moving from proof of concept to a technology that makes sense to adopt. In 2018, expect IoT to go mainstream and become ‘real’.

We will continue to invest heavily in customer and partnership relationships. Our emphasis has always been to make things easier for customers to do business with us. Additionally, we will continue to launch new products and improve our services, tools and processes.

IAA: What are the top three concerns for your customers when considering rolling out an IoT project within their company?

GB: As confidence in IoT solutions grows, customers are looking to it to underpin their entire business. Getting started with IoT requires an approach that is grounded in experience and pragmatism because it is not easy to capture, analyse and leverage the data in an optimised way that drives business growth. IoT also demands an understanding of Operational Technology (OT), which use cases can be thought of as ‘islands of automation’ with sensor generated data. OT can be as varied as a commercial air conditioner, an injection moulding machine and as a heavy-duty truck engine.

While businesses across all verticals are realising that they can bridge the OT and IT divide to create unifying strategy, each of these use-cases mean that solutions are getting more and more fragmented. Standardisation and interoperability are widely recognised as two of the biggest challenges to the success of IoT deployments. Before that happens, there is a need for customers to streamline their IoT strategy by working with one provider source rather than multiple vendors.

As the past few years have seen several high-profile security incidents globally, ensuring end-to-end IoT security at all levels has been another concern for customers. To help fight this battle, the fractured IoT market needs to come together to develop security practices that will leave devices less vulnerable to attack. Enterprises need to begin investing in recruiting IoT security expertise, or developing it in-house. One of the ways that we are addressing security-related challenges is through creating centralised intelligent data aggregators for sensors and other connected devices. Software running on these appliances can recognise specific data sets by size and frequency, reducing or eliminating potential attacks of this nature.

IAA: What should these customers prioritise during the planning phase of an IoT project?

GB: Customers should have a viable long-term strategy. In the future, there will be much more widely deployed services, with as much as 20 times the endpoints to manage. In a rapidly changing environment, scalability should be a top priority as changing the system later will be disruptive and costly for the business.

IAA: Could you provide some examples of recent IoT projects you have been involved in within the APJ region?

GB: The work we do with Innodep is a good example of IoT implementation. The South Korean security and surveillance company wanted to build on the success of its IP-based security solution, Vurix IP-Matrix, by enabling it with IoT technology. This allowed it to tap into market opportunities of rapid urbanisation and smart city development. Testing was conducted at the IoT Lab at the Dell Solution Centre in Singapore, allowing Innodep to reduce overall development time by 40 percent.

In 2016, Dell EMC, Intel and the IoT City Innovation Centre (ICIC) worked on a pilot project that monitors the elderly at Saensuk Smart City in Thailand. With the annual cost of providing care to the elderly demographic reaching US$143 million, the municipality explored an IoT solution to make reduce the pressure on nursing homes. This came in the form of a smart panic button for the elderly, and local medical practitioners were able to identify specific emergencies and discern the type of medical response needed for urgent cases. This system helped to improve the responsiveness of the municipality’s care services for the elderly by at least 50 percent.

IAA: What is your opinion on complimentary technologies, such as Blockchain Technology, in addressing security concerns associated with IoT?

GB: The eventual deployment of Blockchain technology will require partnerships with firms that will deliver customised IT solutions to power Blockchain algorithm-based tech. Deploying such a solution requires a high-level of software testing and IT capability, both areas that we excel in. We are actively working to drive technology and infrastructure that power the Blockchain space.

IAA: As more IoT projects come online there is a shift in processing clout and date storage towards the edge of the network. Could you provide some insight on this and how do you see this playing out in the years ahead and what it means for the future of networking, security and distributed computing?

GB: The rise in low cost, high performance processors, wireless connectivity, big data analytics and low cost digital storage are creating the ideal conditions for IoT technology to flourish. If you take all the data at the edge and you ship it upstream to the cloud, you will find that you are not working in real time, and this slows decision-making. Secondly, this process is likely to consume a massive amount of data traffic. These present problems for many IoT use cases. For decisions to happen in real time, they have to happen at the edge. Distributed computing allows our edge devices to act as spam filters, where we only send data to the cloud that it needs to understand, process and store.

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